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Old Transmission Fluid?

I have an '88 Land Cruiser that I use infrequently for hauling. For the last couple of years I have noticed that the transmission does not seem to send much torque to the wheels for about 20 seconds after starting. After that it works fine. I have been told that it is due to old transmission fluid and that it is not a big deal. The fluid is original with 32 years and 230K miles on it but I’m cheap and don’t want to spend the $ if it really is not a big deal.

I am asking now because I plan to pull a trailer with a one ton load 160 miles this weekend and prefer to avoid surprises.

Changing the fluid after 22 years is a waste of money to correct the problem.

Make sure it is topped off correctly.

The surprise will be if you make it and the transmission is likely on the way out due to your being cheap.

Chances are that this transmission is on the way out, in which case you’ll be taking the money you didn’t spend for regular maintenance and adding a whole lot more to fix it.

What color is 32 year old transmission fluid?

If it’s 32 years old, then it’s a 1978, not 1988.

A fluid and filter change may solve the problem, but probably you are looking at imminent repairs.

“The fluid is original with 32 years and 230K miles on it”

I just went with the poster. He knows the year…I don’t.

I actually know the answer to this question-- I had a '72 Dodge Truck with a 727 torqueflite that I bought in 2004-ish which I believe came with the original transmission fluid (the owner’s manual didn’t mention a change interval and the filter looked OE to me). It started to slip one day and eventually got so bad it wouldn’t move, but all I did was drop the pan, change the (very dirty looking) filter, topped it off and it was good to go. The engine block cracked a few years later and I junked it, but I never had any further problems with the transmission.

The fluid was brown, BTW.

Hmmm…Let’s see. The OP tells us that the trans has been acting up for a couple of years, yet he has apparently not pursued any mechanic’s intervention. He also tells us that the fluid is original, and whether that fluid is 22 years old or 32 years old, the bottom line is that the OP’s negligent, lax approach to maintenance has done the transmission in.

Whether the trans continues to function for another week, or for another month, it is on its way to the grave. Given the book value of the vehicle, he should just drive it until it stops moving under its own power and then call for a tow to the junkyard.

Agree with VDC; the transmission has the equivalent of terminal cancer. But I would still do the normal fluid and filter change and clean out the pan. Then drive it for a week before setting out on the trip.

Even with that it’s still a crap shoot if the trip can be completed.

Just settingg out next week with a one ton load defintely means disaster somewhere along the way, even though the Land Cruiser in one tough machine.

OK guys, thanks for all the input. Right - I can’t subtract; 22YO - still old enough for a spiffy ‘antique’ plate if I weren’t so cheap.

I did determine that the level was a bit low. I topped it off and now wonder if that might have been the issue all along. Color - red; just like the stuff I put in.

As for not pursuing mechanic’s intervention, the two I’ve talked to said the same thing; “old fluid, don’t sweat it.”

OK guys, I’m doing the trip. That will be 160 miles pulling a ton on a trailer with more than two miles vertical climb component. One thing I have learned about the olde LC is that the transmission was designed by Toyota for a ten-ton off-road dumptruck. Add that to a wimpy 5L straight 6 engine and it is durn near impossible to get the transmission to break a sweat. But this will be the hardest I have ever pushed it.

Place your bets, gentlemen; I will post the results on Monday.

Since the fluid is red…I bet that you will make it barring any other mechanical problem(s).

Those old 727s were impressive for their sheer indifference to whatever you threw at them.

The Land Cruiser came through with flying colors and I now have a ton of flooring safely stowed. On the steepest grade it was “pedal to the metal” at 20 MPH in second gear with A/C off in the desert heat. Even overloaded semis were passing me. My temperature gauge climbed a full needle width but the transmission gave no sign of unhappiness.

Thanks, all.


It sounds like you’re trying to say the OP is a bad person, without really saying it. What a shame.

Now that you made the trip OK, why not change the fluid and the filter? Even if the fluid is “red” the filter could be gunked up. When the trans is cold the gunky filter could “gel” a bit and not allow enough fluid to be picked up to fill up the torque converter and run the transmission. An easy fix, and new fluid and fresh filter can’t hurt.

Now a flush that could hurt, so no flush (too expensive anyway). Just drop the pan replace the filter and refill with the proper fluid. Then you won’t have to worry so much the next load of stuff that is 100 miles away.

No worries. The OP has pretty thick skin :wink:

VDCdriver has always been very courteous and respectful and I think his remarks do not reflect upon the character of the OP except in regards to maintenance habits. He has simply stated the unvarnished truth about horribly lax maintenance habits and I concur.

There is no way I would ever hit the city limits in this vehicle because I simply don’t like sitting on the side of the road in 100+ or near zero temperatures while trying to figure out the next move. The OP dodged a bullet this time anyway.